Covid-19 tracing tech built by Google and Apple now available in India


New Delhi: Google and Apple made an unprecedented move of joining hands to help governments in tracing contacts of Covid-19-positive people.

Contact tracing technology built by Apple, Google for smartphones is showing up on Android phones in India.

The Google Settings option on Android now shows “Covid-19 Exposure Notifications” in the list, which can allow users to participate in digital contact tracing and help minimise the spread of the infectious disease. However, the new feature on your Android phone will not be of much use to you.

The solution, which is an API, or an application program interface, enables contact-tracing apps developed by governments and public health agencies to function reliably.

Notably, India’s contact-tracing platform Aarogya Setu is not compatible with the ‘Exposure Notification’ solution.

The two main differences between Aarogya Setu app and an app based on Google-Apple API are going to be related to effectiveness and privacy.

Apple and Google have developed a set of privacy protocols, under which developers of contact-tracing apps are required to agree to the terms and conditions set by the companies, mainly pertaining to privacy, should the developers wish to add the functionality to their apps. These terms and conditions empower the users to explicitly opt-in to use the technology, prevent collection or use of location data from the device, etc.

The result, for now, is that in India, users will have to rely on Aarogya Setu for contact tracing, instead of using an app based on API that is now core part of Android phones and iPhone software.

“The Exposure Notifications System was built with your privacy and security central to the design. Your identity is not shared with other users, Google, or Apple,” a Google statement on the Exposure Notifications technology said. The Covid-19 Exposure Notifications settings on the Android phones do not show the Aarogya Setu app, even if the app is installed.

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